George MacDonald

 

Phantastes

 

Well, much as C.S. Lewis praised this book, it just didn’t really do it for me. I can see something of the style influencing his ‘Great Divorce’, but where I found Lewis’ allegory striking and insightful, I never really felt like I got the drift of MacDonald.

 

Maybe it’s a bit Zen – if you try to analyse you’ll never get it – and I think in the book we’re told not to try to think about fairyland to critically.

 

The book is very dreamlike, wafting around from scene to scene, all sort of making sense within the dream, but quite absurd if you step back. There are several stories within the story, but it’s hardly a gripping read. It seems every character is part of an allegory, but there’s rarely a stinging point. The narrator does seem to go through a process of losing his pride, but I could hardly tell you how and why it happened. There’s bits and pieces of knightly chivalry and mysticism floating around, and maybe if I was immersed in things like Spenser’s ‘Fairie Queen’ and the Arthurian tales it would have done for me. And, sure, the guy can create and sustain a real mood, but, sorry, this leaden soul just wasn’t open for whatever enchantment may or may not have been there.

 

February 2004